Not available in 2022/23
HY4A5      Half Unit
Women as Weapons: The Conservative Political Tradition in the Cold War

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Lucy Phillips


This course is available on the MA in Asian and International History (LSE and NUS), MA in Modern History, MSc in Empires, Colonialism and Globalisation, MSc in History of International Relations, MSc in International Affairs (LSE and Peking University), MSc in International and Asian History, MSc in International and World History (LSE & Columbia) and MSc in Theory and History of International Relations. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

Cold War ideological campaigns for the “hearts and minds” abutted “hot war” confrontations between 1945 and 1991, and conservative women engaged with both. This course has four purposes: (i) to examine the role of women first in the United States, and then internationally, as a reflection and enactment of Cold War conservative politics; (ii) to provide an understanding of cultural forces in building conservative ideas and its shifting ideologies surrounding motherhood, family, the kitchen, race, the workplace; (iii) to understand the traditional Cold War historiography of conservative women’s groups; (iv) reframe an understanding of women and gender with an examination of global conservatives, and unrecognized, influential “Big Women” in history be it the wives of diplomats, diplomats themselves, or cultural actors in the church, foundations, or Hollywood.

To this end, the class will open with a history and examination of the conservative tradition adding women and their writings to the study, basic readings in gender and republican motherhood, and the literature of women in “wars,” hot and cold. We will continue to explore the post-World War II power of women, diplomacy, on the home front, in the workplace, as activists, feminists, anti-feminists, and include case studies of conservative international leaders. By the conclusion of the semester, students will have a firm understanding of women in the conservative tradition in the global context of the Cold War through secondary literature of the field. Each week students will also engage with primary resources, and they will become adept at parsing primary materials in the context of secondary readings. The source analysis and on-line assessment will prepare the student to write a final paper on a topic approved by the instructor that builds on class materials. Each student will do one class presentation, which will prepare them for a larger student conference. Analysis, writing and presentation skills will be honed through instruction, feedback, and practice.

The requirements include significant weekly readings of either one book or 400-500 pages, attendance at seminar discussions, a class presentation, a source analysis (750-1000 words), on-line assessment of secondary literature, a final paper of 2,500-3,000 words, and participation in the class conference at the conclusion of the semester. If a physical meeting is not possible for the final conference, students will present their papers and receive feedback from students and participating professors via the Zoom platform.


20 hours of seminars in the LT.

Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6 of the LT during which they will meet with the professor to discuss their source analysis, on-line assessment, and the final paper strategy.

Weekly topics

  1. Introduction and Women’s Spheres
  2. Reading Conservatism: Where are the Women?
  3. Gendering the Political Rhetoric: Mothers, Wives, Children, Transnational Women’s Groups, and Red-Hot Peace in the Cold War
  4. Is it Only Black and White? Race, Equal Rights, and Left Goes Right in the Cold War
  5. The Private-Public Partnership: Global Missionaries, the Church, and Women as Philanthropists
  6. The Science of Women, the Economics of Homes,  Population Control and Goodwill as a Weapon
  7. Women and the Empire: Margaret Thatcher and Indira Gandhi - Conservatives in Question
  8. Decolonizing Women - Eugenia Charles, Prime Minister of Dominica
  9. Latin America and the Right: Women’s Movements
  10. Cinematic Export of  Women and by Women

The School aims to run in-person seminars, subject to circumstances, with some online provision as and where necessary.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 5 pieces of coursework in the LT.

Five online assessed critical reading essays (max 750 words) will offer students the opportunity to engage with the professor and receive detailed written feedback and will provide discussion points for optional office hour meetings.

One on-line assessment will include a primary source analysis.  Due at the conclusion of Reading Week, students will submit a Formative Essay (2,500 words) to prepare for the final paper.  This work will be marked as a formative assignment and then returned and reviewed during office hours the following week.

Indicative reading

  • Bacchetta, Paola and Margaret Power. Right-Wing Women: From Conservatives to Extremists Around the World. New York: Routledge, 2002.
  • Blain, Keisha. Set The World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018.
  • Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute. Conservative Women: A Collection of Speeches. Herndon, VA: The Clare Boothe Luce Policy Foundation, 2012 (selections).
  • Critchlow, Donald T. Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism: A Woman’s Crusade. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005.
  • Durham, Martin and Margaret Power, eds. New Perspectives on the Transnational Right. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011 (selections).
  • Frost, Jennifer. Hedda Hopper's Hollywood: Celebrity Gossip and American Conservatism. New York: New York University Press, 2011.
  • Klagsbrun, Francine. Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel. New York: Random House, 2017.
  • Manning, Christel. God Gave Us the Right: Conservative Catholic, Evangelical Protestant, and Orthodox Women Grapple with Feminism. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1999.
  • Moore, Charles. Margaret Thatcher: At Her Zenith in London, Washington and Moscow. New York: Vintage Books, 2015.
  • Power, Margaret. Right Wing Women in Chile: Feminine Power and the Struggle Against Allende, 1964-1973. University Park: Pennsylvania State University, 2002.
  • Rand, Ayn. Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal [new e edition]. New York: Penguin, 1994 (selections).
  • Umoren, Imaobong D. Race Women Internationalists: Activists-Intellectuals and Global Freedom Struggles. University of California Press, 2019.

Background reading:

  • Kerber, Linda. Toward and Intellectual History of Women. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997.
  • Morgan, Sue with Judith Butler. Feminist History Reader. New York: Routledge, 2006.
  • Muller, Jerry Z., ed. Conservatism: An Anthology of Social and Political Thought from David Hume to the Present. NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997 (selections).


Essay (50%), presentation (15%), class participation (15%) and assignment (20%) in the LT.

Further information:

  • 50% Essay (Late Lent term, maximum 5,000 words)
  • 20% Critical Reading Assignment
  • 15% Participation
  • 15% Presentation (10-minutes duration in class)

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2021/22: 10

Average class size 2021/22: 10

Controlled access 2021/22: Yes

Value: Half Unit

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Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills